It’s easier than most people think to end up in organized crime. Crime rings may recruit young people in disenfranchised areas, where there are few opportunities for employment or higher education. The “organized” nature of these crime rings is what makes them so insidious. They operate like well-oiled machines — often with a front of respectability and many underground connections.
In northern New Jersey, nearly three dozen members of a carjacking ring were recently arrested or charged. The theft ring was allegedly stealing cars in New Jersey and New York, and shipping them to West Africa. The demand for luxury sport utility vehicles in many West African countries far exceeds supply, where the vehicles sell for up to $100,000. With the hot vehicles fetching between $4000-8000 by fences within the ring, the profit margin was substantial. State Attorney General John Hoffman reports that 29 people were charged, 23 arrested, and 160 cars were recovered. Of these, 27 had been carjacked. In one instance, a woman’s car was carjacked in Newark with her 15-year-old daughter inside. Others were stolen from car carriers, airports, car washes or from wealthy communities.
The operation was successful because it didn’t focus on the thieves per se, but on the many levels of the operation. Different members of the cartel had different functions: Some were “wheel men,” who moved the vehicles from one location to another. Others acted as fences, negotiating stolen goods. Some acted as shippers, loading the cars and falsifying shipping documents, and others committed the actual thefts.
Carjackings have increased drastically in the past few years in northern New Jersey. Hoffman notes that while carjacking used to be committed mainly by kids seeking joyrides, today carjackers are operating more like cold, hardened criminals. He notes that car theft is a serious crime with potentially long prison sentences.
To people with few honest work prospects, organized crime can have a more seductive, discreet allure than one-on-one, open street crimes. Yet when these crime rings are busted, no one gets special treatment. A gang banger can still share a cell with the mastermind of a powerful crime cartel, or even a peripheral crime ring member who might be uninformed about the true nature of their work. A criminal defense attorney can help clarify the extent of a person’s involvement in crimes like carjacking, and advocate for fair sentencing.